Tony Bates’s second TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge ‘clean sweep’ of the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia season delivered him a round six victory on home turf at Sandown Raceway at the weekend.
Rebounding from a non-start at Sydney Motorsport Park in August, Bates claimed the TAG Heuer Pole Position Award and won all three races in the Carrera Cup ‘race within a race’ at the suburban Melbourne venue.
Bates was forced out of the recent Sydney round following a practice accident, however he rebounded superbly in front of friends and family at Sandown to win his second round of the year.
TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge leader Shane Smollen was a consistent second at Sandown while defending champion Stephen Grove finished third.
“We came here with no pressure of the championship and where we need to finish or what points we need to reel in,” Bates explained on the podium.
“We came in with a relaxed attitude and put Sydney Motorsport Park behind us and remind a few people that we can drive and that it was a one off incident. We came here with a really good focus: Dan (Gaunt) and I had talked about a few really good strategies and we just wanted to win every session – which we did.”
Behind the dominant Bates, Smollen scored finishes of second, third and second across the three races, respectively, to secure second overall for the weekend.
The Sydney driver extended his points lead over nearest rival Grove to 29 points this weekend and said he was cautious to maximise his score at the challenging 3.1km circuit.
“Points are exactly what we wanted,” he explained.
“Knowing coming into the round that this was perhaps our least experienced track out of the season we just wanted to maintain our lead – and fortunately we’ve been able to build on it.
“Today (Sunday) we had great pace and I had a good clean battle with Tony – but I didn’t want to push my way past. There was more pace in the car and that was a good sign going into Bathurst.
“I had a few opportunities to get past but there’s no point to push past when he’s not in the championship. Having said that, Tony drove well and consistently and won with good margins in races one and two.
“I’m happy with it and it’s definitely going to go down to the wire!”
Meanwhile, Grove said it was time to drop his ‘Mr. Consistency’ tag and start challenging for more regular victories in his pursuit for back-to-back title wins.
“There’s two big rounds ahead. Everyone is there and if you’re off one-tenth off, it’s ‘goodnight Charlie’!” he grinned.
“I’ve got to win, it’s pretty simple. All year you try and be conservative and build the points but that goes out the window now. You’ve got to go all out and win and if you want to win the championship you’ve got to win races.”
James Bergmuller finished fourth overall at Sandown in a weekend that included a podium effort in race one.
Adrian Mastronardo, Ash Samadi and Marc Cini rounded out the TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge field this weekend with each driver finishing every race across the weekend.
The next round of the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia and the TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge will be held at Mount Panorama, Bathurst, with the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 on 8-11 October.